The IWLCA at 35: Where We Were, Where We Are, and Where We Are Going

By Kathy Taylor, Head Coach, Le Moyne College @LeMoyneWLAX

[Editor’s Note: This blog entry was adapted from a speech Taylor delivered at the IWLCA Annual Meetings on November 15, 2017.]

Welcome All of YOU… It is really great to be here with you in Florida. I am Kathy Taylor, the newly elected President of the IWLCA, Head Coach at Le Moyne College, mother of three, grandmother of two, and one more on the way. I, like all of you, wear many hats… daughter, sister, friend, colleague, coach, and the list goes on. President of this powerful association is only one of the hats I wear, and believe it or not, I volunteered for the job. But like the people that came before me who served as President, I believe in serving the greater good and giving back when possible. This game has been good to me and good for me so it seemed a natural fit. I promise I will do my best while in office but also know it is journey.

Without the service of so many of our members and the many others that came before them we would not be here today celebrating the 35th anniversary of the IWLCA. This Association was built by many volunteers through years of change and growth. Our game… our very special, very unique game, is a very different game today than it was 35 years ago… but it is still the game that we LOVE!

As I look out among you I have to smile because I am reminded of my first IWLCA Meeting and sitting in a room like this. I was 45 years old and brand new to college coaching. I spent 18 of the previous 20 years as a high school coach in Upstate New York chasing state championships. I had not coached in two years and had yet to lead my college team in any real competition. I doubted myself at times and worried I would be seen as an imposter in this world. I wondered if I would ever feel comfortable in this setting. How would a high school coach ever feel like she belongs? I mean I honestly remember thinking “What is the IWLCA and who the heck is Gothard Lane?” Would I ever feel comfortable in this room and speaking as a college coach? It didn’t happen overnight… as most things don’t. But 10 years, and two Divisions later, I am beginning to feel like I belong. I am fitting in. But today is not about me but WE. We must come together as one group and find a way through the many challenges and changes that face us in the ever-changing landscape of our game.

Just a month or so ago we honored 11 IWLCA Trailblazers in a ceremony held at US Lacrosse Headquarters in conjunction with our partner US Lacrosse. Princeton Head Coach Chris Sailer, a past president of the IWLCA, was honored by having the walking path surrounding William Tierney Field named “The Chris Sailer Trail” in her honor. Our 11 IWLCA Trailblazers were the pioneers that individually and collectively lead our sport from the 1960s through the 1980s as Title IX was starting to have an impact, and they are now permanently recognized with plaques installed along Chris Sailer Trail. All 11 plaques tell a different, but similar, story of the impact these women had on the sport of women’s collegiate lacrosse. For those of you that have not been there, William Tierney field rests directly in front of the IWLCA Building. It is a spectacular building the houses the history of the game. A few members of our staff and board, including me, had the distinct privilege of attending the event and spending time with these impressive women as they shared their stories, their challenges, and their triumphs. I can assure you that they were very different than the ones we have today, but what really struck me was this feeling of “oneness” among them. The genuine respect they had for one another was impressive and their camaraderie left me wanting the same for our game today.

2017 is a year that we not only chose to partner with US Lacrosse and name 11 IWLCA Trailblazers in celebration of our past, but to also create our own IWLCA Hall of Fame – we will induct our inaugural class of six coaches tomorrow evening. For our association, it is truly a year of firsts for us. And the message is so strong that while we change and morph as a game and body it is ever important that we never forget our past and those that led the way. Our past gives us perspective and context to where we came from and helps us understand better where we are now.

We put together a handout on the IWLCA “By the Numbers.” Actually I did it myself… I like paper. I plant trees every spring because I know I am killing them daily. I wanted everyone to really understand who and what we are and what powers us. I have learned a lot this summer and fall and I want to share what I have learned with you. We cannot go back to who we were, period. Evolution is forward moving energy… but we DO need to know who we are TODAY and where we are headed Tomorrow… so we can to steer the ship.

We are in uncharted waters but with a talented, strong and committed crew… however without all hands-on deck we will not be able to continue our successful journey and secure our future… the future of the IWLCA. We can’t do it without all of YOU.

We have a mission, we have partnerships, we have staff, boards, sponsors, we have awards, and now a Hall of Fame. We are YOU, and we are ME, but mostly we are WE. And that is the thrust of what I hope we can all take away with us during and after the time we spend together. We are not Division I, Division II, Division III or NAIA. We are a collective group of college coaches all coaching the same sport, trying to do the same thing at the same time in history.

Sure, we all bring our own story with us but that is what makes us stronger and better. Everyone in here is here because they care. I will not waste your time inferring anything differently. We are here to learn… to listen with open minds… to move issues forward, and make decisions for the betterment of our organization. To share collaboratively our knowledge and assist one another as needed. We are here in Florida, at Disney no less, to do WORK. We have one business meeting each year in which we try to pack in a great deal that helps the association run smoothly and serve you all… our membership. So help us help you by bringing your best self to the table so to speak. Attend professional development sessions. Contribute and think critically, but don’t be critical. When you can, you find a way to compromise and move issues forward. We are never all going to agree, but we can find a way forward if we choose to.

I read a lot of history this summer to better understand challenging events and the leaders that led during those times. One of my favorite books was a short collection of speeches by David McCullough called The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For. David is one of our nation’s most distinguished historians. His passion is documenting people, places and events that shaped America. Talk about how lucky we were to have bright people of tolerance building our country. We all learned the big names in the history books, but some of our greatest influencers were in the shadows and they often did not agree, in fact, more often than not they disagreed. But in challenging times caused by change and growth these leaders found a way to put the interest of the whole nation ahead of their personal interests and individual agendas.

I would like to ask all of you to be kind and respectful of each other as we come together these next few days for the greater good of our game. Thank you.

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